Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wigga and Mockney

There was a young man called Robert (sounds like a limerick) behind the counter in Robert Dyas today (could his surname possibly be Dyas? A frisson of excitement goes through me at the thought) who spoke perfect Wigga. These new languages are fascinating; as we get our chops around Kate Nash's extraordinary drama-school Mockney, are we preparing ourelves for the new GCSE subject, Greater London Linguistics?
That's enough pompous ranting for an hour, day, week and month.

I was thinking about Two-Things yesterday as I sat in a traffic jam on the North Circular, because I was sitting in a traffic jam, but I was also gazing at four or five of those massive spindly cranes against the skyline, moving at a snail's pace through the dawn, so graceful and yet so industrial at the same time. So the traffic jam became completely insignificant in comparison. And I thought about One-Thing experiences: being petrified by fear at the dentists, or being in love and only focusing on your loved one, with everything else excluded. I have read that autistic people are Hundreds-of-Things people, who just cannot work out what to exclude and what to include, with everything being of equal value and equal confusion to them.

I spoke to Caroline this morning; I'd been worried about whether she liked the book or not, but she gave it a huge thumbs up although she brought up a couple of points, one of which was the fact that I'd thought that wearing a boiler suit would protect me from being assaulted. As she rightly pointed out, even old tweedy ladies get raped and the myth about women wearing sexy clothes being easy targets (and the only targets) is just that- a complete load of rubbish. Another thing she noticed was the fact that I didn't challenge the assumption that guitars were male, phallic symbols. I had just read so much about cock-rock that I'd gone along with this without even thinking. How silly! I play a guitar that I call The Green Goddess!

The pic was taken on Dolph's porch in Concord. I'll tip Paleface up the right way when I've bluetoothed him on to this computer, but I want a cupatea first.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Paleface at the Evening Muse

I liked Paleface- an unusual cast to his songs which probably means he'll be pushed aside by the mainstream. Legend has it that Beck shared a flat with him and nicked all his ideas (but sometimes legend is a liar, I know). There were some great bits in his music that made you want to listen all the way through. His drummer was great too- a slight little woman who was a very skilful player and who sang as well. Is it just me, or are drummers cleverer than they were in the old days? There used to be just Phil Collins blaring solidly away in his ruffty tuffty no-voice, but here she was, playing and singing with the ease of a bird on the wing. They were a really good duo, in tune with each other physically and I wish I'd bought their CD but it was a hectic evening and I didn't get round to it.
Later, I was told by somebody that I look like Susan Sarandon. I remember once at Offline these guys insisting that I was she, and refusing to accept the fact that I'm not. They kept it up all evening. I do think that I would know if I was Susan Sarandon or not. And one of the cleaners at the Universiy of Westminster used to stare at me all the time.
Finally and triumphantly, he shouted, 'It's that Susan Saracen that you remind me of!!'

But of course, Big Bruv told me I reminded me of a fruitgum because of my cleft chin and hamster cheeks. He counted through the lumps on my face as evidence of my resemblance to the Rowntree's Hard Gum. I am completely certain that Susan Saracen did not have this problem with her brother.

Driving to Atlanta

I had direct experience of the scariness and Deliverance-style aspects of Georgia on the way back from the Atlanta gig, staying in a motel full of invisible truckers with a night-porter straight out of a Hitchcock movie, all hunched skinny shoulders, crocodile smile at inappropriate moments, Grecian 2000 black hair, extreeemly draaawn aaaaht Southern draaawl and an unhealthy passion for Leslie Organs (that's what I thought, too). 'Mah fayvoureet Leslay Organ is the Leslay Organ in mah Church'.
Never has a motel room door been bolted so tightly.
In the morning the invisible truckers had vanished, all but one huge feller with a massive top part of the body and teeny legs that scarcely touched the floor. He had a big white moustache and sideburns and sat scoffing his cereal with an enormous forearm resting on the table. A couple of generations ago he would have been a cowboy, with those little legs wedged into the stirrups and a lasoo in his megahands.
Never seen so many macho guys as I did in Georgia- would hate to be gay or gentle round those parts.

Sketches of North Carolina

I can't believe I've had such a nice time! I'll review the gigs and venues later but there was so much more to it than just that...
Staying with Dolph Ramseur and Dana at their lovely wooden house in the woods, playing guitar on the porch in the sunshine, eating waffles in every single waffle house (pecan with maple syrup, since you ask), visiting Lebos at night and marvelling at all the different cowboy shirts, hanging out at the mall and discovering that T K Maxx is called T J Maxx in the USA, driving a truck to Atlanta and back past the giant peach on a stalk, meeting musicians, shopping for vintage cowboy gear at the Rat's Nest in Charlotte, where a ramshackle band plays Hank Williams covers out the back on Friday evenings, eating huge breakfasts, and just generally being away from it all. Do you know, in Charlotte Douglas airport, they have rows of white wooden rocking chairs for people to sit on instead of nasty plastic seating?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

North Carolina

I bought a revolting pale blue suitcase for 20 quid yesterday because I couldn't stuff my belongings into the one I already had. This one is far too big and everything will be rattling around inside it, but what the heck, you only pack once.
I think I've done everything: dollar bills, e-ticket, booked minicab, done jetlag practice (I didn't sleep a wink last night)
I wonder if there are crocodiles and scorpions in North Carolina?
I went to the US when I was 14 with my Gran, to New England and then to Pittsburgh where McDad and McMum had lived for a while, to stay with some friends of theirs in the Industrial Heartland. I went to a YWCA camp with their daughter, which was huge fun. They used to wake us every morning by blaring '76 Trombones' from speakers in the trees- a very crackly version- and that prompted lots of vile foulmouthery from the girls in the shack. It was a bit like a civilised brat camp actually. I played my first game of death-by-winking there, learned how to canoe, ate all sorts of strange-coloured breakfast cereals and drew portraits of people without looking at the page (try it- it's amazing the likeness you get).
Afterwards, the family took me to a drive-in movie and we saw Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and ate cinnamon donuts. I felt like such a Flintstone!
And then when I was 22 I went to Chicago to visit a boyfriend with a suitcase full of 2000 AD mags that he made me bring back home again. It was minus 27 degrees and every time you stood up, you fell down because the ground was so icy. But I've written all about that before on this blog.
I don't know whether I will be able to get to a computer while I'm away but I will tell you all about it when I get back.
I've listed the U.S. gigs on my Myspace,

P.S. I thought if I said I wanted to go to Paris, Berlin and New York at the beginning of the year, I might get there. I'm going to North Carolina instead. Bit like in the 1980s when I wanted to be on Top of the Pops with Helen and the Horns, and went on Pebble Mill at One instead. I believe it may be a lateral life trajectory.
Something like that.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More about Stuart

Pete Chrisp sent this link,11711,783032,00.html
I obviously wasn't the only one who loved Stuart.
He got a bit cross with me once for knitting a sock in his lecture. It was helping me to concentrate- so many ideas in each sentence, you had to listen very carefully. I am sorry, Stuart, for doing that. I didn't think about whether clicking needles would be a distraction for a lecturer, though of course I know that now!
I had that sock until very recently, when I realised I was never going to get round to knitting the other one.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Talking of coldness

I was so sure it was gonna be a boiling hot summer again that I took this pic in winter to help everybody cool down. Bah! Foiled again.
Here's the picture of these two, a girlfriend and boyfriend, who were having such fun with their snowball last winter. They ended up rolling it down the length of our street, laughing the whole time. I thought they were great!

Swedish Christmas and fond memories

Well, the little Swedish record label have been in touch again, and I'm going to book some studio time in October to record the Christmas songs. I'm still recruiting for the choir- I want lots of people including the groaners in the back row! It will be easy to sing, you just come along and go 'Ahhh' after I've counted to four. Simple! It's me! ABC! Nothing fancy, no operatics, no twiddly notes, just a loud yawn from time to time.
I'm going to be doing a gig and talk in a little bookshop in October too- sounds perfect to me. I wonder if they will let me sit on a pile of books?
My art history tutor, who I loved dearly, was a chronic shoplifter, and his office was a portakabin in the courtyard of the Art College building in Brighton. We did our tutorials perched on different-sized multi-coloured towers of books. One of the tutor group was a terrifying sculptor with a beard called Roger, or rather ROGER!! (he had a LOUD VOICE) and my tutor, a sweet little gay man, was petrified of him as he was so macho, and trembled under Roger's bellow.
He told us that the Victorians would not be able to understand a thing we say, because we talk so much faster than them, and also use terminology that refers to things that had not been invented so long ago. He also told us that cancer is a romantically beautiful thing, because it grows and flourishes even as it destroys its host.
Stuart, I think, has died. I found this terribly upsetting as he was a very kind man. He loved my pictures (even though my personal tutor, Brendan Neiland, recently sacked under a cloud from the Royal Academy of Arts, I'll have you know, hated them), and once he offered to lend me 50 quid when I was skint after I left college. I used to go and visit him sometimes, and once he told me the warehouse where he'd been storing his stolen books had been burned down. He was amazed at the divine justice that had been meted out to him, but also, I think, a little relieved that he didn't have to bother with them any more.
I think I will go and sit on a pile of books this instant, in memoriam of Stuart Morgan, who to me was a model of how a tutor should behave.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Roond at Toms

Been at the studio today, adding some really cool guitar parts to some of the songs, doing a bit of editing, recording the song Sulkworm using the Rhodes (I'm a bit clumsy as a keyboard player but I did a rough version which I might put on Myspace).
I was knackered as I got in at 2 a.m. last night after taking some amps back to Crouch End with a chap who lit up a fag at the Jazz Cafe and got chucked out!
Last nights gig was different to the night before- much chillier audience to start off with (not used to going out perhaps!), and a talky crowd, but the Daintees melted them in the end and had everyone singing and dancing along with them, lauging and smiling and clapping as though they were teenagers at their first festival.
I've met some really nice people in the past couple of days- not just the band themselves but also Daisy, a funky Dickensian sort of girl who was selling their merchandise, Johnny Guitar, who was invited up on stage to play spoons, Tam, who used to promote the Wag club in the 1980s, Rob who runs Voiceprint, and loads more.
I felt like I wanted to do this every night of the week.
Instead, it's back to jacket potatoes, the washing up and the cats, who constantly shout things at me that I don't understand. If I ignore them, they just shout even louder, so I spend a lot of time talking to them and hoping that nobody hears me. Don't want to end up like Prince Charles talking to his reed-bed; that would be a terrible state of affairs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

With The Daintees at the Jazz Cafe

What a tremendous moment, to be standing watching the Daintees play a rip-roaring set, all the songs from Boat to Bolivia, having just finished playing a support set with them!
They have got to have one of the friendliest and most loyal audiences on the planet, who were very respectful to me when I played even though they were so excited to see the Daintees, who play so rarely. As a band, I think they must be the friendliest band on the planet. From the the moment I went into the dressing room, there wasn't a shred of grumpy rockstarness about any of them, and they just radiate fun from the stage. The audience knew all the songs and sang along but they didn't overpower the band. They were just really enjoying it!
I almost died of shock because halfway through they invited me on the the stage and started playing 24 Hours! Bloody good job I could remember the words after all these years; somehow they are etched on to my soul. Imagine that! You get to play, you get to see a great band, and they have learned a song you wrote 25 years ago and invite you to sing it with them.
Does life get better than that for a middle-aged suburban housewife? I think not!
Big up the Daintees, for making not only their crowd, but especially H. McCookerybook, very happy last night

Friday, September 07, 2007

Could this be a miniature pantomime rat costume?

How exciting! Today, the back portion of a rat lay upon the mat when I came downstairs, right in the middle, on display.
Later, the front portion appeared under the washing line, with a horde of wasps buzzily lunching on it.
Do you think it's a costume from a miniature theatre company?
Tonight I shall lay in wait with a torch, wearing my red velvet party dress (haven't got one really), with some ice cream to hand plus a set of opera glasses, to catch them at it, tiny chaps with rat costumes strapped on to their bodies, acting out an earnest suburban drama.
Eat yer heart out, Mike Leigh, we got it all in the gardens of Barnet, sarcastic scripts, awkward pauses, embarassing wives, fake champagne (what's that stuff called?), seventies desserts.
Miniature actors.
Rat costumes.
We got it all.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


The hippy milkman in Camberwell who gave our whole street free milk because we were housing association tenants? Then one day, an official from the depot came round and said 'I'm sorry some of you have not been charged for your milk; your milkman was returning to the depot with the leftover milk from his round and then setting off again delivering it to other people without charging those customers for it. We have sacked him, and we are trying to find out who he was delivering free milk to'.
Naturally, none of us confessed. What a rotten thing to do to a harmless kind man!

Or shall I tell you about the necklace of miniature voice-recording microphones I made for Voxpop Puella, so I could have little bits of ramdom talking in my songs when I pressed 'play'? When I worked on a songwriting project with some foster children in Birmingham, I gave them to the kids, harvesting the necklace as though it was a microphone-vine.

Or what about my character, Jeffrey Thruster, man about town, the business guy, hair gel, signet ring, who zooms into work in his car, nearly scraping off an old lady's bum on the zebra crossing, flashing people in front of him on the road with his headlights, pushing in at the queue to pay for petrol in the garage, cutting people up on the road, and barging into the last parking space in the car park in front of the new girl in the typing pool, barking into his mobile phone all the while.
He gets into the office, and realises he's forgotten to get dressed.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Damned Housework

I was due to go into the studio today; was going to do a lot of editing and arranging and perhaps record the Sulkworm song on the Rhodes. But poor Tom has an ear infection.
So I've had a good chat with Rose the Big Issue seller (hello Rose!)who has a new chair 'cos her old one got vandalised. Between us we agreed it would be great to ask Ben Wilson the chewing gum painter to paint her chair, so that's what we're gonna do.
I've played and sung for an hour solid and I've almost lost my voice and worn my fingers to the bone; I've eaten a whole bar of chocolate I'd bought to share.
I've done almost everything I wrote on the back of my hand to do.
And there's nothing left to do but damned housework.
The hoover needs emptying.
All I can think of is 'Atishoo!'.
If I sneeze, will that use up the whole of the rest of the day's energy?
I have to put the bottles back in the double-disinfected cupboard where the rats were.
Clean the cooker.
Wipe the fridge.
Put the rubbish out.
Wipe the table.
Wash the drinking glasses.
Play piano... oops no, that isnae the housework is it?

If I have time later I will upload the hilarious photograph of the cat sleeping in the turquoise plastic bucket. Hed been completely inside it, but I woke him up as I went down the stairs and he lifted his head up. It's still a bloody funny picture; he'd been in there all night.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


This is the link to get tickets for the gig in Glasgow.
They are selling cheap chairs and tables on the same night!

Boat Ting

What a great evening! I've been to Boat Ting before and that was great too- two out of two ain't bad. Last time there was a power cut and the whole thing happened by candlelight; this time, the performances happened downstairs in a room with giant portholes looking out on to the Thames; the occasional pleasure-cruiser cruisered past and the boat tilted gently from side to side. We fantasised about the boat slowly breaking loose and drifing off into the North Sea without anyone noticing, being tootled and parped at as we vanished into tomorrow's sunrise.
Joan and I (she's the animator who's making the film about fields and hares) went to see Steve Beresford, who had set up chains of miniature electronic instruments which emitted a sort of jumble-sale of sounds as he clicked buttons, slid faders and whizzed things about his head. Even just by himself he was a sort of performance artist, intent on sonic weirdness and digging about in our eardrums with extraordinary noises. He was accompanied by Steve Noble on drums (what a fantastic drummer!) and Alan Tomlinson on trombone, whose style was rather violent; I guess you find the punk attitude everywhere but it's the second time I've been terrified of his trombone slider!
Next up was a trio (shoulda been a quadro but the tube strike struck one member off the register) that included the timeless Lol Coxhill on soprano sax (how can a man look exactly the same for 30 years?), John Edwards on double bass (as well as his playing we liked the relaxed holster-thing he kept his bow in), and last but definitely not least, Sharon Gal on vocals. We liked everything about Sharon, everything from her sheer ferocity to her lovely hands. She managed to be funny and scary all within the same sound. Amazing.
Next time we are going to take our sketchbooks and draw the lot of 'em.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Furious Rant about a Shop

If you don't like rants, change channels now.
I don't either, actually. I have never watched those TV programmes about grumpy old men or women. You can get that by sitting on a bus or going to the pub.
Anyway, here is a rare rant from me.
No I'm not gonna do it.
Just don't buy anything from a fashion shop called Jigsaw.

Anyway, you'll be pleased to know that I've cleaned out the fish tank and the little neon tetras twitched their little lips to say thank you, and by golly, you know I could swear I heard them singing, albeit totally silently.
It was a lovely thank-you song, and I have promised the little fellers I'll clean 'em out more frequently from now on.